Good morning. When I started thinking about this month’s theme, Experimentation, I realized that there’s a difference between Experimentation and Experience. I think most of us tend to interpret our Experiences in ways that reinforce our preconceptions about ourselves and about the world. But when we’re experimenting, our minds are more open to the possibility that we’ll learn something new that might change us.
To experiment is to take a risk, to do something when we don’t know how it will turn out. We might think of our whole life as a series of opportunities to experiment. We don’t usually have to take those risks, but every time we don’t, we do miss a chance to learn and grow.
I’d like to read a poem I wrote last year about an imaginary person who lacks the courage to experiment.
He speaks in a slow drawl
The words take their time easing from his soul into the outer world.
They wait, the words,
in the anteroom of the soul,
stroll about and compare notes,
You see them, sometimes,
struggle to get out,
to pass the lips and be heard
but there’s the irrevocability to consider.
All in all, it’s safer to keep them thereAndie Jackson
in the anteroom, jostling one another
as the place fills up over the years
with so much left unsaid.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
Here on an autumn night in the sweet orchard smell,
Sitting in a pile of leaves under the starry sky,
Oh what stories we could tell
With this starlight to tell them by.
October night, and you, and paradise,
So lovely and so full of grace,
Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
And I reach out my hand to touch your face.
I believe in impulse, in all that is green
Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
And for this lifetime I believe in you.
My name is Dara Strickland, my pronouns are she/her.
My journey as an artist has evolved from representational oil painting toward pure abstraction. I became fascinated with abstract expressionism as a way to express myself creatively. To be “in the zone”. Painting is a solitary process and I find it meditative, and at times almost a form of prayer.
My source of inspiration is truly multi-layered. Intellectually, I tackle intangible concepts while technically I am visually building up layers of oil paint and excavating back into the layers to bring forth contrasts of colors and textures. While painting, I rarely use traditional brushes, instead working with a variety of tools like pastry scrapers, brayers, sticks, and even old credit cards to activate the surface. The result is often bold, sometimes subtle, and always, at least to me, optimistic, delightful, and engaging.
Much of my current work addresses the statement “Truth Matters”, exploring the loss of fact and truth in public discourse, exemplified physically by layers of paint obscuring deeper underlying layers yet always exposing enough to let us know the truth lies beneath.
I am pleased to have my work selected to appear at the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe in 2019. My work was published in the book Cold Wax Medium – Techniques, Concepts, Conversations, and in 2018 was selected to complete an artist residency in Orquevaux, France. I am always willing to talk about my work. Please feel welcome to contact me (www.markwitzlingart.com).
There will be a reception for Mark Witzling December 8, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer. The Ethical Society will exhibit some of his work from December 8 through January 19.
A special Platform presenting the 2019 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Award to member Joyce Best, lifelong activist for peace, justice, and racial equality.
Joyce and her husband, Steve Best, worked together for many years on various social causes, and they raised their children at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Joyce was an active member of the Committee on Racial Equality and was featured in the recent Missouri History Museum’s exhibit on the civil rights movement in St. Louis. She participated in sit-ins and other interracial actions, including helping to form the Freedom of Residence group in St. Louis.
Joyce was active in Mothers and Children Together, which sponsored visits of children with mothers in prison, and in her profession as a librarian, she helped establish a library at Pruitt-Igoe. She is a longtime active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and with that group she helped establish a children’s peace camp in University City, planning and administrating the camp and working there each day as a volunteer for several summers. She also locally coordinates the national Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, which recognizes children’s books that promote interracial harmony and world peace.
Joyce’s Ethical Society work includes serving on the Board of Trustees, and years of active participation in the Sunday School, including as volunteer director; in many committees, notably the Ethical Action Committee, and single-handedly administering the Gilpin Fund utility assistance program; and serving in multiple roles in the Tuesday Women’s Association. She continues to be a strong and persuasive voice of conscience at the Society.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis seeks a full-time Associate Leader (equivalent to Associate Minister/Rabbi) to provide for the well-being of the membership, promote community involvement, and support organizational growth. The Ethical Society of St. Louis is a humanist congregation that provides the benefits of a traditional religious congregation without reliance on the supernatural or scripture. Founded in 1886, it is the largest Ethical Society in the country, with over 360 members. The congregation plays an active role in the community life of the St. Louis region through activism and service projects. Complete details about this opportunity and the Ethical Society can be found here.
I am going to begin with a short true story:
Years ago we visited my brother-in-law in Virginia and for dinner my sister-in-law served fresh butter beans straight from the local farm. They were mouth watering. I had never tasted fresh butter beans before – NOW mind you, I am NOT talking about canned or frozen butter beans – only farm fresh – best picked that day.
So every year since, I have gone to Soulard market and bought butter beans which can only be found at one farm stand-Snarrs. I shell them and freeze them, and I am VERY STINGY with them -never serving them to guests so they last as long as possible.
Well, One day a couple years ago our 10 year old granddaughter was over for dinner. She is quite the little gourmet for her age, and , feeling GENEROUS, I made the butter beans – simmer 30 minutes with a pinch of salt and butter. She loved them and told me over and over how delicious they were and that she would have her Mom cook them. I explained how rare they were….
So, This year when I went to Soulard to buy them, the farmer told me the flooding had washed away the crop and there were none to be had. I WAS VERY SAD. Then a few weeks later, I got a text from my granddaughter including a photo and it said, “ Grandma, Mom and I found butter beans at Theis Farm “ – this is a farm up near UMSL right off HW 70 and Hanley Road. So, I raced to Theis Farm and bought all they had.
Now you are probably wondering why I am telling you this story: it’s because this incident brought to mind one of the major occurrences in life in which I believe – and that is —whatever you want, give it away and it will come back to you – some say ten fold. the Bible says in Galatians: “You reap what you sow.” I have seen this happen so often in my life but having only 3 minutes, I can’t tell more stories. The simplest example I can think of is when you smile at another – what happens? They smile back.
And I guess we should all be warned here not to frown, to judge or criticise or punch someone out as it can work both ways.
Yes, I believe that whatever you want, you must give it away.
So if you want to be loved, shower love on others. If you want to be included more and invited out more, invite others out for coffee or a walk, or to your home. If you want butter beans, cook butter beans for others….
Now I will be the first to agree with you that this doesn’t always happen immediately. You’ve all heard the saying “what goes around comes around?” But It doesn’t always come around fast enough, and Sometimes we think it will Never Come Around at all!!!
Think of a seed that is planted in a garden – one seed grows quickly and flourishes. Another seed is picked up by a bird and carried away. Sometimes the seed disintegrates and becomes part of the earth. But I believe that no seed ( actual or metaphorical ) is ever wasted; the good that you do today could even be met with total contempt, but that good goes out as a vibrational force into the ethers and is held in a kind of miracle escrow account. Deepak Chopra, a modern spiritual guru cleverly calls this “the great cosmic accounting system.” I am not a scientist by training, but it has occurred to me that this is like Newton’s 3rd law of physics which says “for very action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
So in the future I have vowed to be more generous in sharing my beans.
And I hope I have given you something to think about. And when Our program ends, turn to someone near you and smile.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
There’s something deeply personal about pausing at the ordinary and seeing what’s especially beautiful or meaningful or otherwise fascinating. I love finding those moments which most people take for granted. I use my camera and seek out optimum perspectives. Then, with colored pencils, I work to capture the way the light plays with the angles and surfaces, capture these snapshots in time. What’s important to me is bringing you a sense of simple beauty, allowing you to see what I do … seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Susie attended Washington University School of Fine Arts and ultimately received a BS in Education from the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She retired from teaching in 2004, which allowed her to go back to the drawing board – literally! She bought a set of colored pencils on eBay and found her niche. Her colored pencil drawings are in private collections around the world. She has won numerous awards in the United States and Canada. She is a member of the International Guild of Realism and a signature member of the following art organizations: Colored Pencil Society of America, Missouri Artisans Association, Greater St. Louis Artists Association, Susie is represented by Artisans In The Loop Gallery and Missouri Artists On Main Gallery.
There will be a reception for Susie Tenzer October 20, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer. The Ethical Society will exhibit some of her work from October 18 through December 1.
Hi everyone. I’m the new director of the We Thinks Good philosophy discussion group. Today I’m going to talk to you about personal identity, which is the theme of the next meeting. And I’ll try to keep it short.
What is personal identity? Relatedly, what does it mean for your personal identity to persist from one moment to the next?
One popular theory is that your personal identity resides in your psychological states, and so your personal identity persists over time just as long as your psychological states persist over time.
Derek Parfitt has challenged this theory by introducing a number of thought experiments that cast doubt on our intuitions about out personal identity, particularly the notion that our personal identity resides in our minds rather than our bodies.
Imagine that you’re visited by some aliens who inform you that your planet is going to be destroyed in a nuclear Holocaust in the next year, but they can save you by teleporting you onto their space ship. You’re about to agree to this generous offer when the aliens explain how the teleportation device works. It works by eviscerating your current material form and replicating it at your destination. That is, it’s like a biological photocopier that automatically destroys the original.
When the aliens see the look of horror on your face, they assure you that your personal identity – your self – will most definitely persist through the teleportation process, even though your current material form will be destroyed. It’s not a death machine, they assure you; it’s just a convenient mode of transportation.
To the aliens’ surprise, their assurances don’t convince you.
So, the aliens give you a second option. Instead of teleporting you to safety, they’ll replace your biological cells with mechanical analogues that can withstand the force of a nuclear blast, thereby allowing you to survive the nuclear Holocaust. And since they know you’re not keen on instant evisceration, they offer to replace your biological matter gradually – over the course of a year.
When the aliens see that you’re still not satisfied, they start to think that you’re quite irrational. What could be wrong with gradually replacing your biological cells with mechanical analogues, when all the cells in your body are naturally replenished by biological processes in a matter of weeks? What’s the difference between mechanical substitution and biological substitution?
At this point the aliens are becoming quite perplexed by the ostensible irrationality of the human mind, but they try one last solution. They will transplant your entire brain into a host body capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. This host body will be partly mechanical, and its mechanical parts will protect your frail biological brain, to which you are so irrationally attached. The host body won’t be identical to your current body, though. The aliens have carefully studied human preferences and have produced a set of identical host bodies based on their research. All of the host bodies are exact replicas of Brad Pitt circa 2003, as their research has revealed that human beings show a decided preference for white males with muscular exteriors and other stereotypical masculine attributes. Therefore, all of their host bodies are exact replicas of 40-year-old Brad Pitt.
When the aliens see that you’re still not satisfied, they start to fear that human beings aren’t even an intelligent species.
“What’s wrong now?” they ask. You explain that Brad Pitt is a man and you’re a woman. That is, Brad Pitt’s body doesn’t fit with your gender identity. Therefore, transplanting your brain into Brad Pitt’s body won’t fully preserve your personal identity. The aliens don’t know what you’re talking about, as they come from a genderless society. They don’t understand why you would care about gender, let alone whether your gender presentation matches your gender identity. After all, gender is just a social construct that human beings made up. You try to explain that just because something is a social construct, that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. Money is a social construct but money is so real that people die without it. But the aliens just roll their eyes.
How will you escape the impending nuclear Holocaust with your personal identity fully intact? Can you?
To find out, please join me at the next meeting of the We Thinks Good group (October 6 from 3-4:30pm).
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
The American Ethical Union passed an important resolution on voting rights (proposed by the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society). We urge all “to take personal and collective action to reclaim our Democracy by affirming our shared commitment to the Democratic Process as essential to a humane social order which respects the worth of all persons and therefore requires a fair and just process, which elicits and allows a greater expression of human capacities.”
The Resolution addresses many obstacles to voting including voter suppression tactics, restrictive registration processes, criminal disenfranchisement, limited access to polls, gerrymandering, financial influences, and foreign intrusion. It encourages people to educate themselves, protect the right to vote, and vote their values. “When the voices of the People are silenced, our Democracy perishes.”
Lifelong Activist Joyce Best has been named the 2019 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Awardee.
“Our congregation is filled with exceptional, activist humanists,” Best said of the Ethical Society. “Previous winners include many of my friends and mentors. I am deeply honored to receive this award.”
Best and her husband, Steve Best, worked together for many years on various social causes. Their family aspired to live as Ethical Humanists concerned about racial equality, peace and justice.
“Joyce was an active member of the Committee on Racial Equality and was featured in the recent Missouri History Museum’s exhibit on the civil rights movement in St. Louis,” Ethical Society Leader Kate Lovelady said. “She participated in sit-ins and other interracial actions, including helping to form the Freedom of Residence group in St. Louis, and, with her husband, acting as a ‘straw buyer’ to allow a black family to buy a house in a non-integrated neighborhood.”
Best was active in Mothers and Children Together, which sponsored visits of children with mothers in prison. She also lived out her ideals in her family life, living in an integrated four-family flat in north St. Louis and sending her children to local public schools.
In her profession as a librarian, she helped establish a library at the Pruitt Igoe housing project. She is a long-time active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and with that group she helped establish a children’s peace camp in U City, planning and administrating the camp and working there each day as a volunteer for several summers.
Best also locally coordinates the national Jane Addams Book Award, which recognizes children’s books that promote interracial harmony and world peace.
Best’s Ethical Society work includes serving on the Board of Trustees, and years of active participation in the Sunday School, including as volunteer director; in many committees, notably the Ethical Action Committee, and single-handedly administering the Gilpin Fund utility assistance program; and in the Tuesday Women’s Association, including being president and co-president, chairing the international lecture series, and currently continuing to organize the monthly book reviews.
“She also continues to be a strong and consistent voice of conscience at the Society, making sure we are investing in socially-screened mutual funds, for instance,” Lovelady said.
The Ethics in Action Award includes a monetary stipend. The ceremony honoring Best will take place Sunday, October 6, at 11 a.m. at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, which is located at 9001 Clayton Road. There is ample parking behind the building.
For more than 40 years, the Ethical Society of St. Louis has honored compassionate leaders in St. Louis, who try to help the powerless and bring hope and positive change, with the Ethics in Action Award.
To learn more about the Ethical Society of St. Louis, visit www.ethicalstl.org.
Welcome to the birth of a new Ethical Society season!
This season, the Ethical Society is moving through the Stages of Life, inspired by our Statement of Purpose, which includes the commitment that we will “support each other through the stages of life.”
Each month through Platforms, Forums, and other activities we will explore a theme related to human (and other) development and growth and change. The themes are Birth, Innocence, Experimentation, Potential, Rites of Passage, Making a Living, Responsibilities, Wisdom, Endings and Beginnings, Legacy, and Generations.
I remember watching “The Jetsons” on Saturday mornings as a kid. In the 1962 debut episode entitled “Rosie the Robot” we were introduced to George Jetson and his family of the future. George works at Spacely Sprockets as the operator of the company’s Referential Universal Digital Indexer. Operating it required George to press two buttons, labeled “On” and “Off”.
Jane, George’s wife and sophisticated homemaker, had to push far more buttons than George’s two-button machine . She had to push a button for cleaning the floors, a button for making breakfast, anther button to wash and fold the laundry, yet another button for cleaning the dishes. She had to push so many buttons that she developed a crooked index finger. She begged George for a robot maid to push the buttons for her, but George refused; “Jane, we are not getting a robot maid and that’s final!” So Jane went to the robot maid store and got Rosie, the robot.
George was furious, of course. Tonight’s dinner guest was to be George’s stingy and hot-headed boss Cosmo Spacely. Surely his boss would think he was overpaying him if he saw George with such an expensive luxury item like a robot maid. Sure enough, after discovering Rosie, Cosmo fired George. But Rosie saw the injustice in this and came to George’s defense. Using her New Jersey accent, she scolded Cosmo Spacely, and smashed a pineapple upside down cake over his head.
We don’t have loveable robots like Rosie in our homes today, but we do have millions of industrial robots in our factories. I’ve had to square my engineering career in the robotics industry with my humanist values. I’m not naïve about the impact of my industry. The hard truth is that you can’t stop the advancement of automation any more than you can hold back an incoming tide with a spoon. But even if you could, should you?
In the early 90’s, I lost a friend and classmate in an accident involving a gigantic sheet metal stamping machine. He’d still be alive today if a robot was tasked with putting the sheet metal blank into that press.
The best outcome for this modern automation revolution is not robotic maids like Rosie to push our buttons and make us pineapple upside-down cakes, but rather, jobs that are risk-free and reward full. We should be valued not by the number of repetitive motions that can be crammed between 15 minutes breaks, but by our inventive, artistic and social skills. Industrial robots save our lives, our sanity, our dignity, our backs, our wrists and our index fingers. I’m sure someday in the long distant future Jane Jetson will approve.
The show will have student work from five Missouri High Schools. The work was shown last spring at the St Louis Artist Guild Student Show. We are very impressed by the quality of the work done by these high school students. The schools participating in the show are Salem High School, Clayton High School, John Burroughs High School, MICDS, and Parkway Central High School.
There will be a reception for the students September 8, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer. The Ethical Society will exhibit some of the students’ work from September 6 through October 13.
Communicating online can be difficult. When we can’t see each other’s faces, or hear another’s voice, we can make mistakes. We can mistake a person’s meaning, their tone, or even their character – particularly when the lack of physical proximity brings out the worst in us. When discussions start to go wrong, they tend to spiral downwards, each comment interpreted in the worst possible way, until we’re just shouting into the ‘net.
This is not conducive to building community. When people are willing to say online things they would never say to someone’s face, relationships suffer. People begin to believe their fellow congregants are worse people than they are, and everyone is reduced to the slice of themselves they put online. Because of the unpleasant interaction on social media, people are less willing to talk through things in person. Nobody learns. Nobody grows. The community suffers.
This is why we have rules to govern what our members are allowed to post in response to articles on our Facebook page and in our Facebook group. The rules aren’t there to prevent discussion or to shut people down. They are meant to foster community, to help our online spaces meet the same standards of mutual respect and trust we expect to observe when members of the Ethical Society meet face to face.
That said, this is what is allowed on our social media pages:
- Expressing your own view. It is acceptable – even encouraged – for participants to say what they think about a particular post.
- Disagreement. It is perfectly acceptable for participants in a discussion to disagree, to say why or why not they support a particular view or perspective, as long as they do so respectfully.
- Commenting on others’ comments. Replies to another’s comments are not necessarily problematic. It is fine to respond to what someone else has written.
- Judging behavior and language. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about another’s actual behavior or the language they have used. If someone’s language is homophobic, for instance, or if they have breached the rules of the group, it is fine to talk about that behavior.
- Rejecting consensus. It is fine not to believe what others believe. We are a freethinking community, and we don’t do dogma. You have a right to express your view even if you are the only one taking your position.
This is what is not allowed on our social media pages:
- Personal attacks or insults. There is no reason ever to personally insult or attack another member of our community. This includes calling people “stupid,” insulting their character, If an issue is so drastic that it needs to be addressed directly, contact myself or Kate and we will attempt some form of mediation. Insulting someone else online doesn’t help, and undermines the relationships necessary to build a healthy community.
- Broad judgments of character. While it may be tempting to judge people based on their behavior online, we want to encourage members to get to know each other deeply and to bring out the best in each other. Therefore, we ask that people not express broad judgments of a person’s character on our social media pages.
- Jokes at the expense of others, particularly marginalized communities. We have a policy which guides our communication at the Ethical Society: we’ll laugh at ourselves, but not at other people. We ask our members to follow the same policy online.
- Statements which reinforce the marginalization of any group of people. The Ethical Society exists to uphold the worth and dignity of all people. Any statements which are racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist etc. are inconsistent with our core values as a community and will be removed.
These rules still leave a lot of grey areas. Communication is complex, and there will always be room for disagreement as to whether a particular post violates the rules. Therefore, we have two uber-rules which override all other considerations:
- The admins’ decisions are final. When we make a decision, that decision will stand. If you disagree with a decision, speak to us in person about it, but do not argue about it in the thread.
- Relationships are paramount. The most important thing about our social media pages is that they exist to further the broader goals of the Ethical Society: the creation of a community of love and justice in which all people are honored and treated with dignity. This value overrides any of the rules – our main concern is keeping people in right relationship with each other and fostering growth and fellowship.
These rules will change and develop over time as our community changes. For now, this is how we expect our members to engage with each other on social media.
Good morning. I’m Melodee DuBois, and I’ve been an Ethical Society member for the past six months. This summer we’ve recognized some momentous 50-year Anniversaries: Stonewall in June, and The Moon Walk in July. Another major 50-year Anniversary is happening this Friday, August 15th, Woodstock. And I feel privileged to be among the few who attended this epic festival.
Over the decades, Woodstock has been eulogized and trivialized. But however you perceive it, it was a totally unpredictable larger-than-life phenomenon, the likes of which we’ve never seen again. Yes, there were problems and challenges, but now fifty years later, I still feel its enduring impact.
Woodstock was billed as a 3-day celebration of peace, love and music, and I and my brother decided we simply had to go. So we and two of his band members packed our ’57 Chevy with gallons of water and boxes of canned goods, all of which came in very handy since the festival’s concessions were fully depleted by the second day.
We took backroads into New York state, arrived early, and staked out our spot close to the stage. There were no hotels…you just had your tent or car for sleeping or shelter from the rain. And it did rain – 5 inches the first night, turning the meadow into a sea of mud! But with our water-proof tarp, rain parkas and provisions, we were fine and able to bask in the incredible music we’d come to hear.
And what music! The roster of artists read like a “Who’s Who” of late 60’s rock legends: The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and SO many others. My keenest musical memories were of the ‘protest songs’, and the rallying power they had with the crowd: from Country Joe’s Viet Nam Rag to Joan Baez’s rousing We Shall Overcome. These soaring moments united us all in the anti-war sentiments we were acutely feeling.
However, as extraordinary as the music was, it was the genuine spirit of generosity and friendship that prevailed. We all shared whatever we had, sometimes trading food for wine or weed, or vice versa. Many volunteered to feed those with no food in a hastily set- up food kitchen. Thousands of sandwiches made by local women were dropped by U.S. Army helicopters, while nearby residents gave us water. This was humanism at its best.
Today Woodstock occupies an iconic place in our pop cultural history. Nearly a half-million of us made it there. We were idealistic and believed we could make a difference. Were we a little naïve? Probably. Did all the societal changes we wanted happen? No. But did some good positive effects take hold on those who attended? Yes, I believe so.
I’m not saying that Woodstock was my sole influencer at the time, but that experience was pivotal in planting some seeds that helped make me who I am today. I came away with some significant truths: 1st — The value of sharing community with like-minded people; 2nd – Social or political differences should never prevent us from helping those in need; and 3rd — Good thoughts and prayers won’t bring about change…it takes direct action to make a difference.
These tenets have remained with me over the years. They are also at the core of the Ethical Society’s humanistic mindset, which is why I found my way here and am so glad to be part of this like-minded community today. Thank you.
Want to take an ethical action? Give blood through the American Red Cross at the Ethical Society on Monday, August 12, 2019 between 9am and 1pm.
There is a severe shortage of blood, and only volunteer donors can fulfill that need for patients in our community. Nationwide, someone needs a unit of blood every 2 to 3 seconds and most of us will need blood in our lifetime.
To schedule an appointment please call 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter “EthicalSociety” to schedule an appointment.
The American Ethical Union expresses its dismay at this week’s news that the federal government will resume executing prisoners on death row. Our organization has been a staunch and consistent opponent of the death penalty for decades.*
Killing people held in state custody is never acceptable, regardless of their crimes, because it violates two fundamental human rights: the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. Capital punishment is an affront to the ideals of human worth and dignity we exist to uphold.
Our criminal justice system, while protecting society from dangerous individuals, should be humane and focused toward rehabilitation and the restoration of people into the community. Once someone is convicted of a crime and incarcerated, the restriction of their liberty is the maximum punitive element acceptable: the state may take your freedom, but it should never take your life.
Some convicted and condemned to death have later been exonerated as innocent. Certainly, some who are innocent have been killed. The state cannot restore justice after the execution of someone who is innocent, making capital punishment even more of a moral wrong.
The moral imperative to abolish the death penalty is particularly urgent given the fact that in its application it is definitively racist. The death penalty is sought more often against people who kill white victims than African American or Hispanic ones, and people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death. This compounds the inherent depravity of capital punishment, creating a system in which the lives of people of color are literally treated as less important than the lives of white people.
That the USA still applies capital punishment is an embarrassing anomaly: of the 195 nations on the globe, only 55 still execute people, including only a handful of industrialized countries. Every country in Europe has abolished the death penalty, except Belarus, “Europe’s last dictatorship.” The USA is a sad outlier among developed nations in its enthusiasm for state-sponsored killing, and we should all engage in actions to end this cruel, inhumane, and evil practice, including contacting our representatives and the administration to object to this particular action.
Good morning! July’s theme is “Bringing out the Best”, and oddly, that made me think of government bureaucracy.
For the last several years, I haven’t seen much connection between goodness and government or politics. Quite the opposite: I feel shocked daily at the monstrous inhumanity perpetrated by our government.
This affects my psyche, and maybe yours, too. If you live near Tower Grove, you may sometimes hear muffled, profane shrieking around 6:00AM. That’s me, screaming into the void as I read the news each morning. (I’m exaggerating, but just barely…) It’s worst for my poor dog, who is developing some strange Pavlovian conditioning: she’s learned that when I am swearing at my laptop, breakfast is imminent.
So, I’m frustrated about our government. The challenge is focusing on productive action and avoiding cynicism and disillusionment.
I’m lucky that a small part of my work as a professor at SLU lets me see the good that government still does. For the last few years, I’ve been going to Washington twice a year to serve as a grant reviewer for federal research funding through the Veterans Administration (VA).
I thought it might be heartening to hear about the process by which government agencies (VA, NIH, NSF, etc.) decide who gets federal research dollars. I contend that it brings out our best.
To be clear, this doesn’t counterbalance the horrible things being done in our names.
- People are still in cages.
- Systemic racism still pervades law enforcement and the legal system.
- Survivors of sexual abuse still observe that if their assailants are rich and powerful enough, justice will be slow, if it ever comes at all.
But this is a tiny piece of good news. It’s a reminder that governments are people (my friends), and that it is possible to build institutions based on ethical values.
Here goes: the process begins when research teams submit their applications. Each application represents several months of work by teams of researchers, built on decades of scholarship. Based on the topic, each application is assigned to a review section and 3-5 specific experts. My review section focuses on rehabilitation for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, amputation, etc.
As the “experts”, we pore over the applications, focusing on scientific rigor, the importance of the problem they’re trying to address, and the likelihood that the research will improve treatment outcomes or lead to new technologies.
Then, in February and August, we gather in nondescript conference rooms in DC and argue it out. We take it seriously. The end result is a set of detailed critical reviews that inform funding decisions and are also returned to the researchers. Only 10-20% of grants are funded, so the feedback helps researchers decide whether to resubmit or move on to another idea.
The whole process is built on principles of transparency, accountability, and competition, with strict guidelines to limit bias and conflicts of interest. Every session begins with a VA administrator reiterating the mission of the review process: that we are contributing to the distribution of the people’s money, and that we are gathered to act on behalf of our fellow citizens to decide how to use some of our collective wealth. It’s a reminder that we are all in this together.
I’ve heard this half a dozen times, and it still gets to me. It provides a ray of hope in this dark historical moment. As I hear it, I recognize that I will probably go back to cursing at the news, but it’s a moment of hope, and that’s valuable.
If we get through our current situation with our democracy intact, we will need to rebuild many of our institutions, and to reestablish the ethical foundations on which they’re based.
So if you also find yourself screaming at your laptop, try to remember that in tiny puddles deep within “The Swamp”, there are dedicated, talented people working to bring out the best.
Good morning, my name is Susan Hurt, and I’m fairly new to the Ethical Society. Prior to becoming a psychiatrist, I was introduced to the theories of Erik Erikson in college, and this is what I want to talk about today.
Erik Erikson was a developmental psychologist who maintained that personality develops through eight stages of psychosocial development, beginning in infancy and lasting throughout adulthood.
Based on Erikson’s ideas, the field of psychology re-conceptualized the way that the later periods of life are viewed. They are now considered active and significant times of personal growth.
I’m going to skip over the first 6 stages of development that Erikson described and review the 2 later adult stages, as this is my area of focus today.
Generativity vs. Stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory. This stage takes place during ages 40 to 65 yrs.
Generativity refers to “making your mark” on the world through creating or nurturing things that will outlast you as an individual.
Examples include raising children, productive work, and involvement in community organizations.
Those who fail to contribute during these years may feel unproductive, disconnected, or uninvolved with their community – don’t worry, there’s hope if you have difficulty in this stage.
Ego Integrity vs. Despair is the eighth and final stage and begins at age 65.
It is during this time that people slow down, contemplate their accomplishments, and develop integrity if they believe that they have led a successful life.
If individuals see their lives as unproductive or feel guilt about their past, they may be dissatisfied with their lives and despair.
Erik Erikson’s wife Joan had much to say about stage 8 when she was in her nineties.
In particular, Joan stressed the great value of the elderly given their wisdom and the considerable contributions they can make when successfully integrated into society. She worried that the elderly today are too much cut off from others, and that this marginalization is harmful to everyone.
Now, I wanted to talk about Erik Erikson today because he addresses all ages, including adults of advancing years. And here at the Ethical Society we have this month’s theme as “Bring out your Best.” Well, I think it’s a great theme, because we don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that we the have the best – those with wisdom and memory – right here amongst us.
It’s important also to realize that, according to Erikson, if any of his 8 life stages are not completed successfully during its specified age range, it can be completed successfully at a later time. It just takes a supportive community – which we have right here – and the inspiration that personal growth is always possible. I think this gives hope to us all.
Women in Focus St. Louis presents “Beauty All Around” at the Ethical Society gallery, with the opening July 21 from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. The show remains on display and available for viewing through Friday, August 30.
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Confucius said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”. Photographers can experience a state of meditation as they move through the world behind the lens of their cameras. And, photographers can share a vision of the world with the viewer by capturing a single, solitary moment in time. We always hope that vision will touch your heart and open your eyes to a different way of seeing and perceiving. Ultimately, art can make the world itself a more beautiful place. We hope you enjoy the beauty we share with you in this show.
Women in Focus is a St. Louis branch of similar organizations in Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas. As our founder traveled and lived in these different cities, she gathered groups of women together to share their passion for photography. We claim as our mission joining together to support and promote photography, as well as share in the camaraderie that comes from joining together as women to share our artistic visions.
There will be a reception for the photography group Women in Focus, July 21 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Foyer. The Ethical Society will exhibit some of the group’s work from July 21 through August 30.